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Torcello: famous visitors

Torcello’s famous five-star inn, the Locanda Cipriani, has a great “Our Memories” web page which chronicles all the many famous people who have visited. It's an impressive list of royalty, artists, writers, and movie stars, and it's hilarious to read because it’s decidedly NOT chronological, and all other visitors seem to be designated as either “Before Hemingway” or “After Hemingway.”

And yes, Hemingway is at the top of the list, maybe because he not only visited Torcello many times but when he did, he tended to stay for extended periods rather than just popping in for lunch as many of the other celebrities did. In the fall of 1948, Hemingway spent a month on Torcello where wrote his Venice novel, Across the River and Into the Trees.

Confession: I tried to read this novel and I just couldn’t do it. I ended up skimming most of it and only reading the descriptions of Venice. Torcello gets a few brief mentions, but there is one nice part when the “hero” visits the Rialto Market.

But for the most part, I thought it was macho crap. The hero is a dying 50-year-old American military dude having an affair with a wealthy and beautiful 19-year-old Venetian contessa. For much of the book, he staggers back and forth between the Gritti Palace hotel and Harry’s Bar, having flashbacks to the war and being pursued by the teenage beauty. Then he goes duck hunting in the lagoon and then he dies and the book mercifully ends. What is the male equivalent of a trashy romance novel called? I hate to tell ole Ernest, but NO self-respecting teenage contessa would give his tedious self-absorbed hero the time of day.

I found a paperback copy of this novel in a used bookstore here in NC, and the cover is so funny that I had to scan it in.

First, here is the cover of the First Edition hardback of the book (I found this online), published in 1950. Fairly dignified with a cool little Venice graphic:


And here's the trashy paperback published a couple of years later. Venice is gone (except for what might be a hazy gondala behind the Happy Couple). Who were they marketing this to? No, it wasn't published by Harlequin Romances though it sure looks the part.

Notice the price in the bottom corner: 35 cents. In the back, it says that you can order another copy for 35 cents plus 5 cents postage!


Anyway, don't bother reading this book and don't let Hemingway keep you from visiting Torcello!

When I was there last year, I thought about splurging and having lunch at Locanda Cipriani, but I didn't because I wasn't really hungry and didn't feel like sitting down. There's another restaurant on Torcello that receives rave reviews - Osteria al Ponte del Diavolo.

In Marlena de Blasi's "A Thousand Days in Venice," this osteria is the first place that Marlena and Fernando go after she sells her house in the US and moves to Venice, and the food sounds fantastic. So that place is on my list too. Her book, by the way, is a MUCH better Venetian romance with a much more tasteful cover. :)

An excerpt from Marlena's essay, A Lover's Guide to Venice:

"Pack a blanket and head for the island of Torcello...once debarked at Torcello, stroll for a while, then spread out your blanket in the tall grasses on either side of the main path. Stay quiet and feel the ancient stillness of the place. Visit the seventh-century Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta. Have a drink at Locanda Cipriani and then head to Ponte del Diavolo for lunch, asking for a table where the waiter with the salmon-colored cravat and the pomaded hair parted in the middle can take care of you. If it’s May ask for risotto con i bruscandoli (risotto with hop shoots)."

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Comments (8)

Greatly informative post! I think Hemingway is more famous now than during his day - we tend to forget people's weaknesses:-) The website is a hoot - Kim Novak, not a name one hears these days as a once-before starlet. I chuckled reading the room rates. The rate is based per person yet there is an additional rate for a single person -- only in Italy...in French, c'est la vie - don't know the Italian version of this.

Interesting post, Annie. I would love to visit Torcello, not matter what Hemingway said:)


Annie, I laughed aloud at your description of Hemingway's "macho crap!" I don't really appreciate his work, and this one sounds particularly unpleasant. Although both covers are pretty interesting; I wonder what he thought of the bodice-ripper cover!

Torcello does sound extremely interesting, I'm definitely headed there on my next trip to Venice (which I hope could come this year!)

M, you are right - Kim Novak is a rather odd celebrity to brag about, ha ha. I guess she's retro cool by now.

Candi, you'll love Torcello and I hope you get there soon!

Sandra, I read him in high school and remember liking him then. How things change. And I hope you too make it Venice and to Torcello soon!


I laughed out loud at your thoughts on Hemingway, so accurate. I've never been a fan. I read your blurb to Sara just now and she got so animated, her book flew out of her hand and knocked over her glass of water!! She positively loathes his "macho crap". Well described. (I will not let his ridiculous scenario stop me from visiting Torcello one day though!) Great post.

Hope you had a good weekend!

I also cracked up when reading your review of this book :) When I first scrolled down, I thought the tower on the first cover was a rocket! Funny how they changed the cover - I am sure to sell more books. Great to know of a good restaurant to try if I ever get to Torcello.

Annie, thanks for a very interesting review of the Hemingway book.

I really liked Marlena De Blasi's book too. I like her recommendation for Torcello a lot!


Iwas in Torcello but I don't remember what it's the name of the painter which has a art galery and offer BB acomodation. Maybee somebody help me. Thank you

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